How can I have a good marriage when my parents set such a bad example?


I really need your insight into this situation. My parents have been married for over 25 years. However, it pains me to say that nearly 20 out of those 26 years my father has committed adultery continuously, whereas my mother has remained faithful. I must note that they are not Christians in the sense that they only believe in God, which simply is not enough.

I can't even begin to imagine how heartbroken she must be knowing that the vows of their covenant have been broken countless times by my father. Why would he do that? When there is such a violation of a covenant, why would anyone think it's worth it to stay for the kids, especially if it isn't a one-time thing?

Growing up, seeing her cry, seeing them argue -- what kind of example is that for their children? Their marriage is clearly unhealthy. What difference would it have made if they were divorced? There isn't unity in this team or harmony. Trust has been broken. Wounds simply can't be healed.

Seeing their marriage makes marriage look unappealing. Don't get me wrong, not all marriages are like that, but seeing their marriage, I'm so afraid to live out a marriage like theirs, where there is no seasoned faithfulness. What does God say while looking down at this marriage? Is it worth saving? Wouldn't divorce be appropriate?

I am in a relationship with a wonderful man. Neither of us has had an example of what a godly marriage looks like. How do we become an example for children (when we have children) when we didn't have a model (our parents) to look up to?

I love your website because you provide biblical answers. Please help me. Their marriage has scarred me. I am deeply hurt that my father simply can't stay true to his vows. I feel it isn't my place to tell him this: Mom's parents have left her in your care, yet you hurt her. This hurts me. What can I say if I can say anything at all? I am in my early twenties and I've known of his infidelity since I was eight (I came to understand it at twelve, however). What to do?


Divorce has never been a requirement. It is only an option and, then, only if one spouse is committing sexual sins (fornication). While you would not tolerate such behavior, your mother sees staying with your father as the better option. This is between her and your father. The best you can do is ask her why she has decided to stay and if there is something you can help her with, offer her the help, but don't be surprised that she comes up with additional reasons why she cannot leave.

In regards to your own life, you learn proper behavior from God's teachings (Proverbs 3:5-7) and by finding people with good marriages to imitate their example (III John 11). You can find such people in a faithful church of God's people.

In selecting a future spouse, keep in mind that people tend to gravitate toward personalities similar to their own parents because it is familiar to them. You need to be aware of the warning signs of a bad spouse. See A Good Mate.


Thank you for taking the time to answer! I have just read the article "A Good Mate." It's a complete list of the right qualities to look for in a mate (or to have ourselves). However, I do not display all of those qualities, which I suppose is normal since no one is perfect. I have a couple of questions regarding this article:

  • Does that mean I am not fit to be a wife? Or does it mean I'm not yet ready?
  • Should we use this article and the biblical principles it's based on to see what changes to strive to make to be the one and to reflect Christ in a marriage covenant?

I have a couple of questions regarding my prior question:

  • What would you suggest my mother do in this situation?
  • My parents waited for marriage for 5 years! Isn't that an indicator of strong character? Shouldn't that have indicated that my father would have been able to keep his vows? I'm guessing waiting for marriage is to be viewed as laying the foundation and does not guarantee a strong marriage?
  • My mother said that in the first five years or so there was faithfulness. So how could waiting for marriage for five years plus five years of faithfulness during the marriage be followed by 21 years or constant infidelity? That's where it simply doesn't add up to me. Like you said in the article, people change. What could lead to such a drastic change for the worst?
  • Do you think someone who had never shown signs of infidelity during courtship can all of a sudden (after several years of marriage) commit adultery? My mother never thought it would happen to her, especially since things were smooth during the first years of marriage. I'm so puzzled by all of this.

Thank you for taking the time to answer. May God continue to bless you and use you for His great purposes.


You are asking me to guess what happened in the past. That is something I'm not able to do. There are two basic choices: One, your father was not the man he should have been before his marriage but was able to hide the fact or your mother excused the annoying clues. Two, something caused your father to change. If people can change for the better to become Christians, it is logical that people can equally change for the worse. See Ezekiel 18, especially starting at verse 21.

Five years is more than sufficient time to get to know someone. It doesn't reflect a person's character, beyond the ability to be patient. But even in a five-year time, if a person doesn't pay attention to who they are dating, the length of time doesn't necessarily make them observant.

Good marriages do not just happen; they are made by two people working hard to overcome problems. No one can predict the future, but you can be resolved to find ways through those problems.

I have no advice for your mother because she isn't asking for a solution to her problems. I know you want to fix her life, but you can't.

In regards to your own life, if you see things to work on, then do so. You should be striving to become a good wife both before and after you are married. I'm sure the man you marry will appreciate your efforts. And if there are reasons the person you are dating is hesitating to ask, seeing you improve might get him off the fence.

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